Foreign business groups urge rethink on draft residency law


YANGON — Several business lobby groups have publicly urged the Union government to revise aspects of the draft Law Concerning Foreigners, citing concerns over possible restrictions on the domestic travel of foreign workers.

In a Tuesday statement, nine organisations representing foreign businesses in Myanmar said the travel permission outlined in the bill would not be practical for foreign workers and had the potential to deter investment.

The bill’s draft requires residents in possession of a Foreigner Registration Certificate to gain approval from township immigration registrars for any travel outside their registered addresses for more than 24 hours.

Those subject to the law would also require to notify the immigration office of their arrival once reaching their destination.

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“It would in practice hardly be possible for foreign employees to comply with such regulation, particularly for business trips on short notice, including meetings with the government authorities in Nay Pyi Taw,” the statement read. “The resulting risk of exposing any employee to a situation of incompliance with prevailing Myanmar law would be a major impediment for foreign companies to establish a business in the Republic of the Union Myanmar, not to speak of launching large investment projects.”

The bill is slated for consideration during the current session of the Union Parliament, which began Monday.

Also scheduled for discussion is the draft Foreign Workers Law. In its current form, the law would establish a new Union-level committee to administer a work permit system that scrutinises the medical records, employment contracts and credentials of every foreign worker in the country.

While the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population is confident it can administer the proposed laws efficiently, experts have warned the new rules would undermine business confidence and encourage graft in the civil service.

“Fighting corruption, improving the business environment, strengthening the rule of law… are all priorities of the government,” Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business director Ms Vicky Bowman told Frontier last week. “So it’s puzzling that the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population is putting forward these two laws, which undermine all of those government objectives.”

Tuesday’s statement was signed by the heads of chambers of commerce representing businesses from the European Union, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, United States, Australia and New Zealand.

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